Sun Peng, a Chinese university student who had not accepted any special training in basketball until 18, never thought he would, on behalf of China, compete in international multi-sport games one day.
The junior student in Renmin University of China has finished his journey to World University Games in Bangkok, although the Chinese men's basketball team finished only 16th among 24 squads.
"Don't call them nominal college students," Zhang Xinsheng, China's Vice Minister of Education, told Xinhua in Bangkok. "It's an international trend to train athletes in universities and China should follow it."
However, Zhang, also vice president of the International University Sports Federation, said it may take a period of time to make the change.
To be an athlete in China used to mean the person should give up everything else and focus only on the sport. People care about their performance on the international arena and few cares about what the athletes can do to earn a living after they retire.
The World University Games was inaugurated by Frenchman Jean Petitjean in 1923. China had sent its best professional players to the student games since the ninth Universiade in 1977.
In 2001, when the Universiade was hosted in Beijing, China almost dispatched all of its professional players, including Yao Ming, instead of real college students.
China reaped 54 golds at the Beijing Universiade and topped the medal standings. And it kept the first place by sweeping 41 golds at the 2003 Daegu Universiade in South Korea.
By contrast, world sports giants, such as the United States, Russia, and Australia, which are usually in the leading group on the medal tally of Olympics, just let their college students participate in Universiades. And many of their players competing in Olympic Games belong to college sports clubs.
Things in China began to change two years ago at the Izmir Universiade. It was the first time for China's Ministry of Education to organize the team, which used to be formed by the State General Administration of Sports.
The registered college students, instead of professional athletes, began to be sent to the games to enjoy the sports gala.
China only got 21 golds and fell to the second place on the medal tally in Izmir.
However, it was a change of concept of the Chinese sports authorities -- trying to find a way to combine sports with education, which will lead China's sports onto a road of sustainable development.
For the Bangkok Universiade, China sent a 445-member delegation. The average age of the athletes was 21.7. They were all from domestic universities and colleges.
China topped the medal standings in Bangkok with 33 gold, 30 silver and 27 bronze medals.
As the Universiade ended on Saturday, Sun Peng would return to the university.
"Compared with my peers, I have one more choice after I graduate," said the 20-year-old. "I can be a professional basketball player or start my career as a photographer."